I put this book together for a very practical reason: I needed a textbook for a course on women's health, and I could not find one with all the features I wanted. For example, because the course is open to both healthcare majors and nonhealth majors, I wanted a text that would be engaging and worthwhile for both sets of students and for the general public as well. I knew that many traditional and older college students had little knowledge of how to go about evaluating, preserving, and/or improving their health and that even women majoring in nursing, or another health-related discipline sometimes know more about taking care of other people than about caring for themselves. Therefore, I wanted a text that would spell out what it means to be wellfor example, to have a healthy cardiovascular system, lungs, and kidneys. Thus, Markers of Wellness sections in this book came into being, and, of course, my desire for a book that would help readers foster their own wellness led to the promoting wellness sections. It was obviously also necessary that the nature of the various illnesses that women commonly experience, and the signs and symptoms that betray their presence, be described. For those purposes, I devised the sections on illnesses and problems. Because I have a holistic philosophy of health, however, I also wanted a book that would address more than just physical health. I wanted one that would convey the interrelated and interdependent nature of physical, mental, and spiritual health and would provide information on evaluating and improving health status in all three of those areas. Another wish was for a book that would address the integrated healthcare delivery system that is emerging in this country. I knew that readers would need information that would help them choose wisely from among the wide range of available traditional and nontraditional healthcare-related products and providers. Last, but perhaps most important, I wanted a book that would acknowledge the often ignored link between women's health and their status and roles in the society in which they live and would address the ways in which socioeconomic variables, such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability and sexual orientation, affect women's health.
Women's Health: Body, Mind, SpiritAn Integrated Approach to Wellness and Illness meets all the aforementioned criteria. First, it is suitable for both healthcare majors and persons without a formal background in healthcare. It is worthwhile reading for students majoring in nursing and other healthcare professions, as it addresses topics and details pertinent to women's health that, due to space limitations, are not included in more general texts. In all discussions of illness diagnosis and treatment, areas of disparity between men's and women's experience (symptoms, accuracy of diagnostic indicators, treatment efficacy, and so on) are highlighted. Lay readers will appreciate the definitions that accompany all medical terms used, as well as the clear explanations of physiological processes, medical interventions, and the like. The wellness self-assessments sections found in most chapters are designed to assist readers in evaluating their own health status. The resources, including books, journals, videotapes, websites, and organizations, listed at the end of each chapter will be of general interest, as well the information in the New Directions sections on trends in research, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. The information in the New Directions sections also remind readers of the fluid and ephemeral nature of "knowledge" and the need for lifelong inquiry and critical thinking.
No book intended to assist people in managing their health is complete without a section on accessing and interacting with our rapidly evolving healthcare delivery system. Readers need information about providers and systems, as well as on their own roles as consumers, to be able to get good care with which they are satisfied. Readers will appreciate the information pertaining to dealing with managed care (such as HMOs and PPOs) and the importance of advance directives (such as living wills and medical powers of attorney) included in Chapter 9, as well as the guidelines for communicating effectively with providers and seeking and evaluating sources of health-related information.
Women's Health: Body, Mind, SpiritAn Integrated Approach to Wellness and Illness meets my need for a holistic text in that it acknowledges and explains the interconnectedness among the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being, and therefore our health. In it, health is defined as a continuum ranging from wellness to illness, and it is conceptualized as multidimensional: physical (organ systems), psychological (thought patterns, attitudes, feelings, and moods), and spiritual (the process of creating meaning in one's life through a sense of connection to something that transcends the self). The book makes the point that each dimension of health influences, and is influenced by, the others. For example, Chapter 27 contains a section on psychoneuroimmunology, a relatively new science that investigates the connections between mental/emotional states and physical manifestations of health and illness. Also, psychological, emotional, and spiritual factors known to play a role in physical illnesses are highlighted. For example, considerable attention is paid to hostility as a potential factor in the development of coronary artery disease. In Chapter 28, concrete information on dealing optimally with the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of dying and death is presented.
Addressing psychological wellness and spiritual wellness in their own right is also important. For one thing, there is evidence that both can be actively promoted, just as physical wellness can. Also, some of the markers of psychological wellness may be different in women and men. For example, it has been suggested that women are happiest when embedded in a web of relationships, whereas men seem to do well without this. Including information about spiritual wellness for women is important, because research suggests that persons who have developed the spiritual dimension of their being enjoy a higher level of physical and emotional health than persons who do not, Although most women describe themselves as having religious or spiritual faith, the patriarchal nature of the major religions is problematic for many. Therefore, resources related to both the growing movement to make mainstream religions more woman-friendly and alternative women-centered spiritual practices are provided.
Women's Health: Body, Mind, SpiritAn Integrated Approach to Wellness and Illness meets my need for an integrated text in that it addresses not only traditional healthcare but also what has been seen as alternative, or complementary, health care. The inclusion of material on nontraditional healthcare is important, because it has been estimated that the general public spends more money on alternative therapies than on mainstream remedies and services. Readers must have information on the nature, efficacy, and safety of the most commonly used alternative therapies in order to make intelligent choices as healthcare consumers. Chapter 10 addresses what is referred to as the holistic paradigm, the set of beliefs and values that distinguishes alternative healthcare systems from traditional Western healthcare. In Chapter 11, alternative systems, such as traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, homeopathy, and naturopathy, and treatment modalities, such as acupuncture, healing touch, aromatherapy, and herbs, are discussed in terms of the beliefs about health and healthcare that underlie them and their demonstrated efficacy or lack of it. All chapters with an illness section contain information about alternative treatments that are commonly used for the malady under discussion. For example, Chapter 12 addresses not only the American Heart Association's dietary recommendations but also those of Dean Ornish (author of Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease). The section on treatment options for depression contains information about the herb St. John's wort, as well as standard drugs, such as Prozac. A brief synopsis of the research literature on all newer treatment options is included.
No book on women's health is complete without a discussion of the implications of the female gender for healthcare. The content in this area addresses historical and contemporary cultural beliefs and attitudes toward women, as well as women's relationships with the healthcare establishment. It has been well documented that decisions in such areas as medical research, insurance reimbursement policies, and diagnostic and treatment protocols are influenced by societal views of women. Readers must have sufficient information about the past to think critically about the present. The ways in which socioeconomic variables such as age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability and sexual orientation affect women's health are addressed primarily in Chapter 2, as well as alluded to in other chapters.
It is my hope that the existence of this book will stimulate faculty in departments of nursing and other healthcare disciplines to offer courses on women's health that are open to students from all majors. Educators in health-related disciplines have an obligation to support the health of the student body at large, and to establish themselves as expert sources of information about health and healthcare.
Finally, it is my hope that you, the reader, will consider this book to have been worth your investment in time and money. I hope Women's Health: Body, Mind, SpiritAn Integrated Approach to Wellness anal Illness will stimulate you to maximize your wellness and will equip you to cope better with illness. I hope that, after having read it, you will be more aware of the ways in which the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of your being interact to affect your overall health. I hope also that you are dazzled by what you learn about the wonders of your body and the strength, stamina, resiliency, and tenacity of your female kind. Finally, I wish you health and happiness in body, mind, and spirit. Marian C. Condon
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